We stood near the water’s edge slurping the best oysters, prying butter clams from their shells with our fingers. We were in hog heaven, otherwise known as Emerald Acres Oysters, a Hipcamp destination that enjoys incredible views of the South Sound about 90 minutes from Seattle.
Kevin Riley, shellfish grower extraordinaire, walked us through the painstaking process of farming Pacific oysters on this waterfront chunk of land that sits next door to what was his family’s home.
A former software tech, Kevin has devoted the past decade to the art and science of wrangling the briny bivalves of the sea. He built his business from the ground up, connecting with some of Seattle’s top chefs and most prestigious seafood markets. Yes, those are his pristine Treasure Cove beauties on display at the famous Pike Place Fish Market.
But then, the pandemic hit and Kevin needed to figure out how he was going to make it through the dramatic drop in business.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” he confessed.
The concept of Hipcamp is similar to AirBnB, with owners offering up various accommodations to the adventurous traveler. It might be a cabin at a clothing-optional resort near Silicon Valley in California or a posh pad on the Oregon Coast. For RV travelers, it’s all about a place to park that’s completely out of the ordinary.
Our friend Soojin was an early adopter, sharing photos of incredible sites on social media. That’s how we first heard about Hipcamp. One of her faves is on Grays Harbor, near Westport. Bayside RV Camp is a screaming deal at $45 a night for a full hookup right on the water.
The costs and amenities vary widely on Hipcamp. You might find yourself on a patch of ground surrounded by deep forest, no hookups in sight. But the modest price reflects the limited services. Or, splurge a little and score some amazing perks. The rate for Emerald Acres Oyster Farm is $100 a night.
Over the summer, the two spots on the grass near the waterfront at Kevin’s place were full every single weekend. Some visitors returned for more after the impressive experience.
Not only do you get a picturesque parking spot, there’s the option of adding on an oyster feast by the campfire, courtesy of the man who grew them. While offering tips on shucking -- smooth moves he picked up from shucking champ David Leck -- Kevin served up a bucket of information. Bet you didn’t know that the seeds used to start the oyster growing process come from the Big Island of Hawaii. Neither did we until he filled us in.
The deep dive on oysters and clams was far from any kind of boring lecture, as Kevin entertained us with his remarkable knowledge of the process. He even threw in a spooky story about Sasquatch. No spoilers -- but you absolutely must ask him for a vocal impersonation of the big fella.
That evening, after the last ember went dark and we returned to the warmth of our tiny home on wheels, we reflected on how grateful we were to have these types of socially distanced, outdoor experiences during this difficult time.
This spot offers the bonus of a couple of rustic cabins to rent as well, so you could meet RV-less friends or family there. There’s also a restroom with a shower and a hot tub that can be rented for the evening for an additional $50. Totally worth it.
As we drove away the next morning, we were already hatching plans for a return visit. This is the kind of camping we’re hip to do more often.